Cop22 and the looming test of global resolve
Over the next two weeks the 22nd session of Conference of the Parties (Cop22) to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change will take place in Marrakech, Morocco. The international climate conference follows last year’s landmark agreement in Paris in December 2015, during which 196 parties signed to pledge progressive policy actions to tackle climate change. The UAE is one of the first countries in the Arab world to do so.
Marrakech brings international climate negotiations back to a region that is itself vulnerable to global warming, but also has a lot to gain from the successful implementation of the Paris agreement.
As part of the Arab world and North Africa, Morocco has, in recent years, topped up its renewable energy capacity, a model that may be attractive for other North and sub-Saharan countries as well. It shares this feature with the UAE, which has set record-low cost ceilings for photovoltaic power in the past two years, making solar energy competitive with virtually all available energy alternatives in the Gulf region.
Together, both countries demonstrate the enormous opportunities for clean energy in a region that has previously been known mostly for its fossil fuel wealth.
Morocco also stands to make a substantial contribution to emissions reductions in the medium- and long-term, provided the right incentives are set and barriers to investment in renewable energy technologies reduced. This is an important process taking place within the Arab world, which could, within the next decade, become a major beneficiary from a gradual transition towards cleaner energy.
Protecting the world’s climate is a shared responsibility between all of the world’s economies, as our human footprint threatens to accelerate pollution and global warming, with many adverse consequences for us and our environment.
The Arabian Peninsula is one of the world’s most water-stressed regions, relying on seawater desalination and the import of substantial portions of its food owing to its arid climate. More drought and extreme temperatures would affect the UAE and its neighbouring countries severely and permanently.
For the UAE and for the wider region, there is much more to be gained from this progress. Contributing to global climate mitigation efforts goes hand-in-hand with the creation of new, green industries and jobs that technology such as renewables can provide. Sustainable and resilient city planning, including public investment incentives and regulatory reform to standardise urban building stocks and provide greater access to clean energy is a developmental goal that the UAE already pursues at national level. Climate-smart land use and overall greener, more environmentally-conscious growth will also help manage valuable natural resources more efficiently, thereby securing high living standards for future generations.
The key to making the Paris agreement successful is the implementation of practical climate action and working out ways in which its signatories can realistically expect to meet and exceed their own targets. This is no small task, particularly in developing countries.
The priority at Cop22 will be on transparency and data collection mechanisms, national capacity building, and the all-important topic of climate finance for developing countries. Climate finance will play a pivotal role in mobilising resources towards the common goal, a task considerably harder to achieve in the world’s poorest nations and those countries whose institutions still require considerable capacity building to implement and monitor progress. Inaction will, in this context, come at considerable additional cost.
The UAE’s own contribution in this context will not only rest in its role in promoting positive action, but also by demonstrating the positive efforts that can be made. This is even more so within the context of the international community, in which Arab countries could position themselves through leadership in global clean energy development. The benefits for the UAE, and for the Arab world, far exceed the initial cost.
Laura El Katiri is a consultant in Abu Dhabi specialising in economic, energy and environmental policy
On Twitter: @lauraelkatiri
Updated: November 5, 2016 04:00 AM